The One Word That Can Change Everything

BlogYET (1 of 1)

“What do you see, Mom?” my daughter asked, holding up a pen and ink drawing in a book of optical illusions. I’d seen this picture before. If you look at it one way, you’re absolutely sure that you’re seeing a beautiful young woman staring into a mirror. Look again and all you can find is an old crone gazing off into the distance. Even when you know the trick, it’s hard to shift your perception once you “lock in” on the image. You see what you see.

I’ve been especially keyed in to the importance of perspective lately. Recently, I lost my job of more than 20 years. On paper that looks terrible, and in many ways it was, but the reality is more complicated. As comfortable as my ad agency position was, the fact is, I was long overdue for a change. Even before the agency closed, I kept a wish list of new opportunities. But daydreaming about doing something new and being dropped headfirst into a challenging new reality are two very different things. As motivated as I was, I found out fast that there is nothing easy about starting over mid-career.

So here’s what I’m learning – maybe “easy” isn’t the goal. Maybe the secret to achieving something new is outlasting the “hard” part of getting there.

This idea is summarized beautifully in a TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth (you can watch it here: ). She is a pioneer in the study of grit. After several years as a teacher, Dr. Duckworth set out to understand why some of her “smartest” students underachieved and why other, less gifted, students excelled. If having a high I.Q. wasn’t the secret to success, what was? The defining trait that emerged was grit – the ability to persevere towards a goal over the long haul.

As I work towards my ambitious new goals, Dr. Duckworth’s findings inspire me. For that reason, I was especially excited to hear one of her researchers, David Meketon, talk about “Grit: Passion and Perseverance for Long Term Goals” at my daughters’ school. While the focus was on helping students perform better, I was hoping to hear something that would help motivate me through the hard process of starting over. I wasn’t disappointed.

Early in his talk, Mr. Meketon emphasized that there is one important word to add to your child’s (and your!) vocabulary. That word is “yet.”

Think about the shift in perspective these three letters can bring. It’s the difference between “I’m not good at math,” and “I’m not good at math yet.” Between “I’m not at a healthy weight” and “I’m not at a healthy weight yet.” Between “I don’t know how to code” and “I don’t know how to code yet.”

As I launch headfirst into 2015, I’m keeping these three perspective-shifting letters front-of-mind. I lost a great career that I had for 27 years. But I’m not letting this setback derail me. I have big plans for the future. And goals that I haven’t reached. Yet.

Patty Cara is the author of the upcoming TENideas: The Further Creative Adventures of a Former Creative Director and the creator of the iPhone productivity app TENideas. Organize and act on your own best ideas with TENideas, the iPhone app that helps you power your possibilities. Find it on the App Store at Or learn more at

TENideas is NOT the coolest app you’ll see today.

There are lots of truly amazing and ground-breaking iPhone apps out there. TENideas is not one of them.
What it is is  “a colorful, clean and organized digital space to capture and act on your ideas.”
If you don’t have a simple place to save your ideas, you’re probably losing them.
And that really is a shame because they’re the most valuable thing you have.
Don’t lose your great ideas. Capture them with TENideas.
If you need more background, you can find it here:
If you’d like the ideal app to help you generate, organize, and act on your ideas, download TENideas today. You can find it on the App Store right here:


Holy Macro!


Spring is Ready for Her Close-Up

Trying a macro camera lens has long been on my TENideas list – buying one, not so much. So, I was excited to discover that I could use credit card points to purchase the Nikkor 40mm f/2.8. After watching this video I was sold. While it’s not a high end macro (or micro) lens, I’m having lots of fun playing with this new addition to my camera bag. And, spring really is the perfect time to zoom in on the outdoors. I took these photos at my local plant nursery. Five minutes of shooting and I have more than a dozen memorable photos.


If you want to try a macro, I strongly recommend this lens. It’s affordable and lots of fun.


Want to start a bit smaller? Here is a great tutorial for using your iPhone to take macro photos along with links to sites to buy iPhone lenses.


I’m happy to cross one more item off of my idea list. And, it’s something that I think I’ll be using for a long time.


My goal is to live a life fueled by ideas, not just driven by tasks and to-dos. I founded TENideas to help other people do the same thing. You can learn more about it here or get the app here.

Three Secrets of a Great Creative Department (That Can Work for You, Too)



There is a special kind of torment that comes with having to be creative under pressure. A typical project during my long career as a Creative Director might begin something like this:


Good news, guys. We’ve been invited to pitch to (insert big, important potential client name here).


Unfortunately, they want to see something in (insert utterly unrealistic timeframe here).


We really need to wow them because (insert high-stakes reason this pitch is so important to the agency here).


The creative needs to be great because (insert reason that the success of this pitch rests solely on the creative here).


Does this sound like the perfect recipe for creativity? Of course not. It sounds like a reason to reach for the Tums. But somehow, time and time again, our Creative Department would meet challenges like this and deliver award-winning, client-wowing work.


Here are three ways we delivered under pressure that can work for you, too:


1.)  Have a Deadline and Don’t Be Afraid to Use It

Your deadline, however unrealistic, is the key to adding structure to your creative process. As it is so sagely put in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Begin with the End in Mind. Always establish exactly what you want to end up with and then work backwards from the due date to create a project timetable. This is an absolutely essential step in any creative endeavor, personal or professional. If you don’t stick to a deadline, even if it’s one you set for yourself, your project will simply not get done. Guaranteed.


2.)  Take the Time to Build a Meaningful Creative Brief (Even if it’s Only in Your Head)

In the advertising world, a Creative Brief is a document that is used to inform the creative process. It contains key information about the client, their specific communication goals, their competitors, related research, and anything that can help add shape and meaning to the creative. The more accurate the details that are contained in the creative brief, the better the end result is likely to be. Every project, even those outside the creative realm, requires a well-prepared brief. Take the time to inform your process.


3.)  Alright STOP, Collaborate and Listen

There was rarely, if ever, an idea that was so great that it did not get better from listening, really listening, to valued team members. Find knowledgeable and trusted collaborators, mentors or advisors for any project and then consider their feedback. That doesn’t mean completely compromising your work to adapt to every opinion, but it does mean recognizing valuable input from a trusted colleague. No matter how much you love your own idea exactly as it is. This was often the difference between a good idea and a great idea.


That’s it in a nutshell. Build a plan around a deadline, gather and use great information, and surround yourself with trusted colleagues. These are the rules that shaped my career as a Creative Director, and they’re the ones that I still rely on when I want to do something well. Especially something that requires me to be creative under pressure.


I developed TENideas – an iPhone productivity app to help me work with ten of my own ideas every day. I developed this app as a tool to create and live a life based on ideas, not just tasks and to-dos. You can learn more about it here: or buy it here. If you have any questions on TENideas, contact me directly. I’m happy to help!




The One Thing You Need to Succeed (Besides Balsa Sticks and Tissue Paper)


My teenage daughters are members of their school’s Technology Student Association (TSA). It’s an amazing team that participates in competitive events like robotics, digital photography, design innovation, and more. Put the words “competitive” and “technology” in the same sentence and you have our family’s attention. As the competition dates near (first Regionals, then States and Nationals if you qualify) preparation amps up in our house. Some events are right in our comfort zone, others are a stretch. This year, we stretched.


My 16-year-old signed up for Flight. The goal is to build a lightweight plane, powered by a rubber band, that takes off from the ground and stays in the air – the longer the better. Her plan was to source a great kit (allowed in the rules) and get the plane built well in advance of the competition. As a novice, she knew time was not on her side.


You know what they say about good intentions. The kit arrived in plenty of time but somehow my daughter never got around to building it – until the weekend before the competition. Now, this is a project that takes about ten hours just for the construction. Then there is testing, compiling a flight log, and making adjustments (and retesting). It’s especially daunting for a novice. You use very lightweight, very thin balsa sticks that need to be precisely cut and glued. Did I mention that they break easily? Picture trying to construct something complex using Andy Capp’s Hot Fries with glue all over your fingers. The instructions used terms like Fuselage, Leading Edge, and Wing Saddle. It was all Greek to us.



If the task was viewed in its totality, it seemed utterly impossible. If it was broken down into individual steps that we (I served as an advisor and an extra set of hands) took the time to understand completely and accomplish individually, suddenly it was doable. We might not be able to build a lightweight plane out of balsa wood and tissue paper following complex instructions in a limited amount of time but we could definitely cut a piece of balsa wood to a specified length and pin it to the plans. And whatever single step was required after that.


The takeaway for me? The impossible becomes possible when you break a task, however daunting in its totality, down into manageable steps.


Will it fly? We’ll find out during testing today. Will it win? Probably not. Was it worth every frustrating, glue-stuck, balsa-breaking minute? Absolutely. My daughter built a plane and her confidence soared.


Follow this blog to see more Ideas in Action or get started on capturing and acting on your own ideas. I use TENideas – an iPhone productivity app to work with ten of my own ideas every day. I developed this app so that I would stop talking about innovation and start acting on it! You can learn more about it here: or buy it here . If you have any questions on TENideas, contact me directly. I’m happy to help!



The Data of YOU: Three Essential Ways to Crunch Your Own Numbers


“How do we measure results?” During my time in advertising, data was every client’s holy grail. We needed hard and fast numbers to support media buys that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Before the digital revolution, that information took months to compile. Today, it’s available with just one click. And it’s more valuable than ever.


The best part? It’s now easy to put data to work for you. Take the guesswork out of your goal-setting. Here are three ways to get started:


1.)  Start by tracking what’s important to you

Like a lot of people, I want to lose a few pounds. I work out regularly and I make healthy food choices but I’m stuck. Confession time: I avoid the scale. But tracking my weight is the minimum data that I should collect to form a better weight loss plan. Today I downloaded Weightbot, an iPhone app to help capture, track and graph my weight.


Think about what’s important to you. Is it your budget, sleep habits, energy level, exercise routine, or something else? Whatever it is, start tracking one relevant set of data. Find a digital tool to help.


2.)  Add more data for a clearer picture

A correlation is a statistical relationship involving dependence. Put more simply, what affects the numbers you are tracking? Why do they go up or down? For weight loss, I believe that what I eat affects what I weigh. To start to get real meaning from the data I’m collecting, I need to explore that. That means tracking a second set of numbers. I added myfitnesspal (an app and a website) as a calorie tracker. It only takes a few moments to enter what I eat, but now I have a concrete record of data. With both sets of numbers, I can look for the correlation between calorie intake and weight. More importantly, I have a basis to adjust my behavior based on real data.


For your own tracking, think about what might be impacting your first set of data. For instance, is impulse spending getting your budget off track? Does caffeine upset your sleep schedule? Does a better night’s sleep result in more energy throughout the day? Look for a digital tool that can help you track this second set of data, or better yet one that combines the two.


3.)  Consider a wearable data tracker

Finally, if you really want to dig deep into your own personal numbers, consider a wearable tracker like FitBit or FuelBands. Want real inspiration? Check out this guy who tracked just about everything he could for thirty days.


“What does the data show?” It’s the question asked by everyone who wants concrete support from information. It has always had power and value. It’s just time to think about how it can work for you.


Follow this blog to see more Ideas in Action or get started on capturing and acting on your own ideas. I use TENideas – an iPhone productivity app to work with ten of my own ideas every day. I developed this app so that I would stop talking about innovation and start acting on it! You can learn more about it here: or buy it here: . If you have any questions on TENideas, contact me directly. I’m happy to help!


Black Bean Dip (Antojito de Frijoles Negros) – with Bacon!


My idea this week is to actually use my cookbooks – especially ones I don’t usually reach for. To make it fun (and fattening!), I made appetizers for a party.Image

Day One: Black Bean Dip 

This recipe is from Sunset Mexican Cook Book – Classic & Contemporary Recipes. This one was published in 1990 but I still look for Sunset cookbooks today because the recipes are consistently good and they are loaded with pictures. Plus there’s something fun about using a slim paperback cookbook. Less pressure!



guacamole (homemade or store bought)

6 slices bacon, coarsely chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained (reserve 1/3 cup of the liquid)

1 cup (4 oz) shredded jack cheese

1 each small red and yellow bell peppers (or 2 of either), stemmed, seeded, and chopped

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (including tops)

sour cream

fresh cilantro

1 jicama, peeled and cut into 2-inch-wide sticks, or Fried Tortilla Chips (which I used)

Do this:

In an 8- to 10-inch frying pan, combine bacon, onion, and chile powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp (8 to 10 minutes). Drain and discard fat. Let cool.


As soon as these three ingredients started cooking together, I knew this recipe was going to be great. The kitchen smelled amazing.


Photo above is just to get your mouth watering 🙂

In a large bowl, coarsely mash beans.


I used a potato masher to mash the beans and it worked perfectly.

Stir in reserved liquid and add bacon mixture. Spread into an 8-inch round on a large platter; top with guacamole. Sprinkle with cheese; add bell peppers and green onions. Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream and cilantro sprigs. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This recipe was easy and delicious. I highly recommend it. My thirteen-year-old said, “Can you make this on my birthday?” That’s the highest compliment cooking gets in this house! Give it a try.

Follow this blog to see more Ideas in Action or get started on capturing and acting on your own ideas. I use TENideas – an iPhone productivity app to work with ten of my own ideas every day. I developed this app so that I would stop talking about innovation and start acting on it! You can learn more about it here: or buy it here: . If you have any questions on TENideas, contact me directly. I’m happy to help!